Hunter, the Hard Way

“Is this the way to Hunter Mountain?”

Here we f’n go, I thought. We were on the Spruceton Trail, a jeep road leading to Hunter’s summit and fire tower from the west. One of the biggest trails in the Catskills, it’s a veritable highway. How could you not know where you were.

Annapurna

Biting my tongue, I replied, “It’s a mile or so up… do you have a map?”

He pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it. Definitely not a NY-NJ Trail Conference map. But it was something.

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Poaching the Smiley Road

“Four mile post. Entering the lost community of the huckleberry pickers. You are not forgotten.”

Someone had carved this inscription into a board and nailed it to a tree at mile four, coming from Ellenville, on the Smiley carriage road.

Smiley Road
Along the Smiley Road

Earlier this month, I’d run a loop in Sam’s Point Preserve, partly inspired by Marc Fried’s book The Huckleberry Pickers. The Smiley road figures large in Fried’s book.

In 1900, the Smiley brothers, owners of Mohonk Mountain House and Cliff House and Wildmere on Lake Minnewaska, expanded their already extensive carriage road network with a seven-mile road from Lake Awosting to Ellenville.

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Sam’s Point Loop

“You come all the way up from Jersey?”

The guy who accosted me on the Publik House’s patio in Ellenville, NY, was some years older than I, sporting a bushy white beard and minding a high-spirited grandchild. I slumped in a chair, contemplating a hard-earned post-run meal and adult beverage.

Minnewaska meadow

“Yeah… I’ve been in the eastern side of Minnewaska a lot, but not so much the west side. Were you a berry picker?”

“Yep, a long time ago.” He sighed and looked into the distance. “There weren’t so many rules then.”

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